(Update: Ryan Walters tendered his resignation from Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, according to a report late Sunday from The Frontier. The post below remains in its original form.)
Can you lobby yourself? That’s something Ryan Walters will be in the unusual position to answer as he begins his time as state superintendent of public instruction Monday.
As you can read in this interesting feature story, Walters is currently the executive director of Every Kid Counts Oklahoma, an education advocacy group, and it appears he has no plans of stepping aside from EKCO even after he is sworn into office Monday. That will make him simultaneously the head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education and the head of an organization that wants to see OSDE make various changes.
How does one man draw two large salaries for working a pair of full-time jobs? We saw a similar situation pose an ethical dilemma for another public official in 2022. Will Walters carry two cell phones? Will he write letters to himself back and forth on OSDE and EKCO stationary? When Jennifer Monies — simultaneously an EKCO board member and an OSDE board member — calls Walters on the phone, will they change ears on their devices when they flip-flip between professional capacities?
In the near-term, the two jobs of Ryan Walters simply make for cartoon fodder. In the long run, they further tangle an educational ball of yarn in this state that is in dire need of unknotting. But at some point, Oklahomans deserve an answer to the question of whom Ryan Walters intends to serve: the taxpayers who pay his public salary or the undisclosed donors who pay his private one?
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